INTERVIEW: Beaten Cambodian activist recounts assault

Agricultural expert and government critic Ny Nak was attacked and beaten by baton-wielding motorbikers on a Phnom Penh street earlier this month, leaving him hospitalized.

It was the latest assault on an outspoken activist in Cambodia.

At least 50 political and social activists have been victims of similar attacks in the country in recent years. Most have targeted opposition party members.

None of the attackers have been brought to justice.

In the days and weeks before the attack, Ny Nak had posted comments critical of the government on Facebook under the pseudonym IMAN-KH. Hours before the assault, he had taken to the social media platform to decry Minister of Agriculture Dith Tina’s handling of a report on rice prices.

The Sept. 12 assault happened while Ny Nak and his wife were riding their motorbike. The attackers beat them both and left Ny Nak unconscious. He was hospitalized for more than a week with a swollen face and stitches in his forehead.

Minister of Interior Touch Sokhak suggested in an interview with Voice of America that the suspects were trying to rob Ny Nak and his wife. But Sok Sinet told RFA that no one tried to take her handbag, and the thugs made no effort to grab their phones or their motorbike.

Ny Nak spoke with Tha Thai of RFA’s Khmer Service just after his Sept. 20 hospital release.

RFA: Hello Ny Nak. How is your health?

Ny Nak: My injuries have not completely healed. My hand has a deep cut. I will continue to take injections at home. And my left leg can’t move properly. When I stand up, it hurts. My head and other parts of my body are already healed.

RFA: Can you describe the attack?

Ny Nak: My wife and I were traveling from my fertilizer warehouse to our home. I don’t remember if they crashed into us or if someone kicked our motorbike. When we crashed, several people stopped their motorbikes and started attacking me.

My helmet hadn’t fallen off my head yet. One guy came from behind me and removed it. Then they used steel batons to beat my head. My wife tried to go for help but the suspects beat her as well.

They chased me until I reached a dead end road. That’s where they beat me until I was unconscious.

RFA: How many suspects?

Ny Nak: From what I saw, there were four people. But the police who came to the hospital said there were eight people on four motorbikes.

RFA: Did they look like gangsters?

Ny Nak: I would like to reaffirm that they were not gangsters. They were trained precisely, judging by their uniform and the way the attack was carried out. They all wore black helmets, black shirts and they attacked me without saying anything and without stopping.

They might have been younger than 30 years old, maybe around 27 or 28. They were about 1 meter, 60 to 70 centimeters tall (between 5’2” and 5’6”).

RFA: Do you know the reason for the attack? Was it out of personal revenge?

Ny Nak: I would like to strongly deny that this was done out of personal revenge. The attack was about my criticism of the government. It’s about freedom of speech. This happened just after I posted some criticism on Facebook. My last action was expressing my opinion.

RFA: You criticized the agriculture sector and you mocked the minister of agriculture and officials. You posted the picture of the minister.

Ny Nak: I criticized the Ministry of Agriculture officials but I didn’t mention the minister or other officials in particular. To me, I criticized the agriculture sector. I didn’t focus on the minister or any other official. I criticized the group. As long as they don’t perform their jobs and don’t promote the agriculture sector, I must criticize.

RFA: Was the attack designed to shut you up?

Ny Nak: Yes, that is correct.

RFA: Has there been any information from the police?

Ny Nak: I haven’t received any updated information from the authorities. In regards to the police preliminary assumption that it was a robbery case, I would like to deny that. My wife and I were not robbed of any money or other properties. This was an assassination attempt.

RFA: Did the suspects express any fear when they attacked you?

Ny Nak: They were professional and trained. They were brave. They were not afraid when I tried to fight back. If they were regular people, they wouldn’t have removed my helmet. Their intention was to break my head so that I would die.

RFA: Have you asked about nearby security camera footage?

Ny Nak: Once my health has improved, I will file a request to the authorities to see the security cameras.

RFA: I saw the message you posted on Facebook after the attack. You asked for justice and if justice is served you agreed to defect to Prime Minister Hun Manet.

Ny Nak: This is a condition that I set for justice. I strongly demand real justice and not a fake version. Whether I defect or not, I don’t say it yet because I don’t see the light of justice yet. But for justice itself, even if I didn’t set any condition, the authorities must resolve the case for the victim.

Source: Radio Free Asia